‘Of course I’m a gun guy’ | People | codyenterprise.com – Cody Enterprise

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“Of course, I’m a gun guy,” Danny Michael said. “I grew up with guns – and now with my job, guns come with the territory.”

Michael is the Robert W. Woodruff Curator of the Cody Firearms Museum at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, taking the reins a year ago after a tenure as Assistant Curator that began in 2016.

“Cody is a great place to live,” Michael said. “I was excited to come to Wyoming where I can continue my love for shooting sports and where I can hunt. There is such a stark beauty to Wyoming; you can always find an impressive landscape.”

When Michael came on board, he “hit the deck running”—almost literally—as the CFM renovation was underway.

“That project was all consuming,” he said. Each of the firearms on display was removed and stored. The museum’s footprint was reimagined to better tell the stories related to the collection. Finally, once the reconstruction was complete, all those firearms were returned to display, and the museum reopened in summer 2019.

“We’ve really met our goals with the new CFM,” Michael said. “We wanted visitors to realize that we’re more than just a firearms museum, and our collection reaches beyond the American West. This is a museum where everyone can learn something, and we’ve noticed more families enjoying the space together. At the same time, collectors and experts can still find their preferred content.”

But Michael is quick to point out that the work continues.

“We’re focused on the visitor experience and committed to living up to their expectations. We constantly re-evaluate our decisions and are quick to retool when we find something not quite working the way we intended.”

In addition, Michael noted every two years, the CFM features a new display in its special exhibitions space. As curator, he’s always entertaining ideas for content.

“I also deal with those who want to donate firearms,” he explained. “That family heirloom may be better celebrated by passing it down to descendants rather than sitting in our vault. For some firearms, we already have several in our collection and simply don’t have the display or storage space for more.”

Michael couldn’t imagine a better job than firearms curator.

“It is so rewarding to see individuals enjoying history and engaging with our artifacts,” he said. “And it’s so humbling for me to actually handle these artifacts every day.”

For Cody area residents, Michael recommends they “take a day and become tourists.” He reminds locals that the Center of the West is part of the community and encourages them to take advantage of having this world-class institution right here in town.

“The Center of the West is open all year long.”

One of the CFM’s unique services is its firearms records research.

“We have something like 15 million factory records for manufacturers Marlin, Winchester, L.C. Smith, Ithaca, and Savage,” Michael said. “Firearms owners want to find out their gun’s history, provenance, or whether it’s been altered. Our records research office helps owners to verify family stories and check authenticity.”

Michael and former CFM curator Ashley Hlebinsky—who is now a firearms history consultant in Arizona—continue their collaboration podcast “History Unloaded” with Season 5 now underway.

“History Unloaded is a great outlet for conversation about firearms, museums, and culture,” Michael said. “I worked extensively with Ashley as we managed the renovation of the CFM, so in our podcast, we have great rapport. We encourage folks to check us out on your favorite podcast platform.”

In 2017, Michael and Hlebinsky also launched Arsenals of History, a symposium bringing together firearms experts and museum professionals from around the world. While the symposium was held virtually in 2020 on a smaller scale due to COVID-19, Michael said it will return to an in-person event in the future.

The CFM – and Cody – also receives coverage through CFM’s YouTube Channel, firearms media such as Guns & Ammo who routinely films programming at the Center of the West, and through the CFM’s presence at numerous gun shows throughout the year, including the SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, Outdoors Trade) Show in Las Vegas.

Michael earned a BA in history (military history concentration) from Cedarville University in Ohio and a Master’s in Public History from the University of Louisville, where he also worked as a Curatorial Assistant at the Frazier History Museum, also in Louisville.

“I grew up in the tiny town of Big Pool, Maryland, just across the road from Fort Frederick State Park, a stone star fort dating to the French and Indian War,” Michael said. “My dad would take us over to the fort in the evenings and weekends. With visiting Fort Frederick, the many nearby historic sites, and battlefields like Antietam, I developed a strong interest in American History.

“Along with my enjoyment of reading and learning about history I have been shooting since my middle school years,” Michael added. “I started with a slide action .22 rifle, and my interest in firearms and the history behind them has only grown since then.”

Michael met his wife Kirsten after he moved to Wyoming, and the two will celebrate their second wedding anniversary in October.

“We both love Cody; it’s a great place to live,” Michael said.

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